Life sciences and health

New paradigms for antibiotic discovery and production

Currently, it is estimated that around 700,000 deaths worldwide result from antimicrobial resistance each year. Unless action is taken, this is projected to rise to 10 million deaths each year by 2050, with the added impact of a cumulative $100 trillion of economic output at risk due to the rise of drug-resistant infections.

Antibiotics underpin modern medicine as we know it: if they lose their effectiveness, key medical procedures (such as caesarean sections, joint replacements, and treatments that depress the immune system, such as chemotherapy for cancer) could become too dangerous to perform.

There are various recommendations on how to tackle this problem, including enhancing public awareness and promoting new, rapid diagnostics in order to cut unnecessary or inappropriate use of antibiotics. One solution on which NPL is working is to increase the number of effective antimicrobial drugs to defeat infections that have become resistant to existing medicines.

In response to the challenge, NPL is working to discover, screen and validate new classes of antimicrobials that exhibit effective mechanisms against pathogens. Combining this world-class measurement expertise with Ingenza’s experience as the UK’s premier industrial biotechnology company to engineer efficient and adaptable biomanufacturing systems is a natural fit.

The success of the first antibiotics, such as penicillin, was based on their ability to not only combat infection, but also be redesigned to enhance effectiveness, resulting in longevity and sustainability of useful antibiotics. NPL and Ingenza are therefore creating a new family of antibiotics, by enhancing the design and measurement of antibiotics that selectively attack microbial cells.

This August, Ingenza and NPL kicked off a three-year collaboration with Dr Mathew Upton’s group at the University of Plymouth, thanks to a grant from Innovate UK. Dr Upton’s group is internationally recognised for the discovery and development of epidermicins, a novel class of antibiotics.

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